01.The parent trap
While there’s no doubt shopping for the new person in your life can be extremely enjoyable, among all the marketing hoopla how can an expectant parent determine what’s essential, what’s nice to have and what’s not needed?
So you’ve just had a baby or found out you’re having a baby. Either way there’s a lot to look forward to – first smiles, first steps and first words. What also comes with a baby is big change in lifestyle and your shopping habits too.
Australians spent $4.38 billion on baby products last year, and the segment is predicted to grow – concrete proof that expectant and new parents are fair game when it comes to the marketplace.
Baby’s first steps – to the shops
Having a baby is an experience that can involve opening your wallet – a lot. After all, when there’s a new person joining your family they’ll need clothes, somewhere to sleep, maybe something to travel in and, as they get older, solid foods. But when does enough become enough?
A quick flick through pregnancy magazines or visit to one of the enormous babies and kids expos that tour the country shows the power of marketing when it comes to parenthood.
The array of products available is mindboggling, from the basics, such as cots, strollers and clothes, to the extreme – knee pads for babies learning to crawl and crash helmets for those learning to walk, not to mention an array of surveillance devices to ensure your baby is under watch 24 hours a day. And then there are the products promising that with their purchase your baby will sleep, eat and/or develop better.
Consumer psychologist (and new dad) Adam Ferrier says that as a market segment, babies and kids has unique emotional qualities: status, safety and nurturing. “These are all very powerful things to build a brand on,” he says.
“For parents there’s a genuine need for approval and to do the right thing. Because you are so inexperienced at being a parent, and there is a massive discrepancy between your actual and your ideal self, that’s something marketers can play into.”
However, Ferrier says that compared with similar markets overseas, the Australian market is still in its infancy. “It’s the tip of the iceberg, there’s a lot more to this market and what can be made of it.”
Robin Barker, registered midwife and early childhood nurse and author of acclaimed Australian baby-care book Babylove, says that while there are plenty of things on the market for babies (and kids) parents really don’t need, advertising and marketing like to imply otherwise.
“It’s full-on for a first-time mother the first time she’s hit with all this stuff,” she says. “There’s so many different brands out there and they are all working hard to make you feel guilty.”
For more information about kids' health, see our Babies and kids section.